Home > Uncategorized > Gov. Christie Releases NJ’s “First Come, First Served” Sandy Recovery “Plan”

Gov. Christie Releases NJ’s “First Come, First Served” Sandy Recovery “Plan”

Christie Plan Lacks Funding for Buyouts and Restrictions in High Hazard Locations 

No Recognition of Vulnerability Due to Climate Change and Risks of Sea Level Rise

Weasel Words, Loopholes, and Unfunded Aspirational Rhetoric

 Plan fails to leverage federal money to secure policy “beyond regulatory compliance”

The program is expected to help 6,000 homeowners, but it’s first come, first served.

The program came as a surprise to some residents Tuesday night, many of whom have been confused and overwhelmed by the maze of programs and agencies offering help and the daunting task of rebuilding quickly. Record, 3/13/13

[Important update below]

Governor Christie released NJ’s Sandy Recovery Plan yesterday, proposing uses of the first $1.828 billion of the $60 billion in federal disaster relief funds appropriated by Congress (to read the plan, hit this link).

As we expected and due to limitations in the federal HUD block grant programming requirements, the Governor’s Plan is driven by “Rebuild Madness” – rebuilding and economic development are its exclusive focus, with literally no consideration of climate change, sea level rise, extreme weather events, natural resources, land use planning, or coastal vulnerability.

There are no public hearings on the Governor’s Plan and the public has just 7 days to review and comment on the plan under federal HUD regulations. Comments may be submitted until 5pm on March 19, 2013 via email to Sandy.Recovery@dca.state.nj.us

We will be doing a more in depth review, but for now, let me just make a few brief points, mostly about what the Governor’s plan does not include.

1. There is virtually no public involvement or legislative oversight

The Governor claims that he developed the plan with “stakeholder” involvement:

The proposed Action Plan incorporates input from Sandy-impacted communities and stakeholder groups whose engagement will continue throughout the State’s recovery, rebuilding and restoration process.

Will all those stakeholders out there please raise your hands?

Senator Beck (R-Monmouth) publicly stated several times that she was meeting with the Governor and his Rebuild Czar on developing the plan, but I must have missed the legislative hearings on the Governor’s plan.

2. There is no planning in the “Plan”

Although HUD regulations target the most impacted counties and eligible uses of funds, States have broad discretion in how they propose to spend the money.

The Governor’s Action Plan is critical, because it lays out NJ’s framework, goals, objectives and recommendations for “long term recovery “.

The Governor is proposing to retain unilateral executive branch control of this planning process, with no legal or policy framework, legislative oversight, or structured planning process:

The State, through DCA and in coordination with the Governor’s Office of Recovery and Rebuilding and relevant State departments, will coordinate planning activities with communities statewide to ensure that the long-term planning process benefits New Jersey citizens and meets HUD CDBG-DR objectives.

The Governor’s long term recovery plan does not even mention the natural resources of the coastal zone – there are two content free sentences that mention the huge set of issues involving coastal hazards, natural resources, and adaptation planning:

… the State will undertake and promote hazard mitigation techniques and programs and seek to utilize green technologies and practices where doing so is feasible and cost effective.

.. efforts will be made to balance the need to preserve open space and promote sustainable communities.

Aside from allocating no money to support these objectives and the fact that they conflict with the rest of the plan, just what the hell does that mean?

The Governor’s unilateral “plan” is foreclosing options and determining the future of the shore.

That is one of the best reasons for the Legislature to create a Coastal Commission to replace this federal funds fueled Rebuild Madness.

3. There are no priorities in the “Plan”

The money is allocated under the NJ plan on a “first come, first served” basis, within the 9 most impacted counties targeted by HUD. That is the antithesis of planning.

Planning requires establishment of goals, objectives, and priorities and a geographic expression of policy.

The Governor has set no priorities, or risk based methods, or geographic targeting, or a planning process to assure the most effective use of funds for recovery and rebuilding and long term economic and ecological health of the shore region.

Section 3 outlines disaster relief and long-term recovery activities, focusing on the reconstruction and rehabilitation of primary residences and rental properties, assisting small businesses and promoting economic revitalization, and restoring critical infrastructure. Within each area, the State will focus on meeting the needs of low and moderate income populations and the most impacted counties as identified by HUD.

The geographic targeting implicit in the plan is based solely on the severity of damage to a structure, not whether the structure is highly vulnerable, located in a hazardous zone, or has suffered repeat flooding events.

All we see are vague assertions, like this:

Per HUD guidance (FR-5696-N-01), New Jersey’s Action Plan must account for and address sea level rise. New Jersey will incorporate, where applicable, appropriate mitigation measures and floodplain management throughout proposed programs. 

Or huge loopholes, like this:

No funds will be used for activities in areas delineated as a Special Flood Hazard Area in FEMA’s most current flood advisory maps unless it also ensures that the action is designed or modified to minimize harm to, or within, the floodplain. 

Or absolute bullshit like this:

Citizen participation is an essential component of the State’s planning effort. The State strongly encourages public participation to identify community needs. Citizens and other stakeholders are given an opportunity for reasonable and timely access to information and comment period relating to the Action Plan, any ensuing substantial amendments

The State has been in constant communication with its residents, local leaders, and other stakeholders since prior to Superstorm Sandy’s landfall. This continuous outreach has helped identify the needs and priorities of the many communities affect

4. There are no performance metrics in the Plan

HUD regulations require that States include metrics to evaluate the performance of expenditure of federal funds. The Christie plan fails to do that – despite, Mr. Metrics over at NJ DEP:

Section 5 addresses New Jersey’s performance schedule for its proposed programs. At this time, it is premature to set out detailed performance metrics. The State will timely amend its Action Plan to describe performance metrics when appropriate.

5. The Plan does not address financing a huge $21 billion unment infrastructure need

We have written about the water and sewer plant failures. Finally, we find that issue documented in the Plan:

At the height of the storm, 94 wastewater treatment systems suffered failures or disruptions, including inadequate treatment, broken sewer mains, and other operational issues. The loss of electrical power rendered many water systems unable to maintain service. Even at plants where backup generation was available, the disruption of the petroleum production and delivery system caused generator fuel supplies to be limited.

The vast majority of New Jersey’s community water supply systems were impacted: 427 of 604 community water systems experienced power loss during the event. As a direct result of the service interruptions, 362,334 New Jersey residents were placed under a boil water advisory. One month after Superstorm Sandy made landfall, eight drinking water systems in Ocean County, serving approximately 10,000 households, were still subject to a boil water advisory. […]

The costs of building a more resilient utility infrastructure will be substantial. Approximately $21.1 billion in mitigation projects have been identified. With regard to damages, while additional utilities projects are expected to be committed in the future, initial data as of February 23, 2013 indicates that $277,487,381 in project worksheets have been submitted to the FEMA Public Assistance (PA) program for utilities projects, of which $901,182 has been deemed eligible. Assuming a 25% local share of existing PA funding, the total local share is currently $225,295.50. Therefore, excluding the federal share, New Jersey’s current estimate of its unmet utilities need totals approximately $21,350,000,000. 

6.  The NJ plan omits important programs that NY included

NY Gov. Cuomo, a former HUD Secretary, gets it – he has recognized and prioritized climate change, sea level rise and the growing risks of extreme weather events.

NJ Gov. Christie does not get it.

Here are some NY initiatives that Gov. Christie should have included in the NJ Plan: (read NY Plan here)

  • Recreate NY Smart Home Buyout Program – $171 million:
  •  Certain areas are at high risk for repeated flooding, causing damage to homes and risking the lives of residents and emergency responders. To reduce those risks and provide residents with an opportunity to leave their properties, New York State will offer voluntary Buyouts for homes that were:
  • substantially damaged inside the 500-year flood plain, or
  • located within designated buyout areas where damage occurred and where property may be susceptible to future damage due to sea level rise and other factors. These enhanced buyout areas will be selected in consultation with county and local government officials.
  • In very high risk areas, there will be a prohibition on rebuilding and these areas will be used as buffer zones. Under the States proposal, and subject to approval by HUD, re-development of property outside of the100-year floodplain that is acquired through a buyout would be permitted, so long as the new structure is built to mitigate future flood impact. Homeowners will be notified if they are eligible for a buyout after HUD has approved this plan.

Homeowners eligible for a buyout will receive the full pre-storm fair market value for their home up to the FHA loan limit. An incentive of up to 5% will also be offered to families that relocate within their home county or borough.


New York State will create a dedicated infrastructure bank to help coordinate infrastructure development and investment across the disaster region. An initial capitalization of $20 million from the first allocation of CDBG-DR funds will be combined with State funds and committed to financing eligible infrastructure projects that apply for assistance through the Bank. The Bank will benefit New York by introducing a centralized approach to infrastructure related decision making rather than a project-by-project, agency specific process. The focus of the Bank’s investments will be on projects that increase the resiliency of the area’s infrastructure to withstand future threats or provide redundancy of critical systems. It is expected that the Bank will be funded with up to $200 million dollars through subsequent allocation rounds or such other amount to be jointly determined with HUD.

The Bank will take several steps to carry out these goals, including developing a system for prioritizing infrastructure projects and initiatives, providing a centralized approach to the State’s infrastructure planning process, managing State recovery funds for infrastructure and other sources of capital, negotiating opportunities for private sector investment in infrastructure and financing approved projects. The planning processes and expertise of the New York Works Task Force will be embedded into the Bank’s functions.

The Bank may make use of funds from several sources, including federally allocated recovery funds, diverted or created revenue, proceeds from the sale of long-term debt and credit enhancements with other state entities. In addition, the Bank will work with both public and private investors to raise funds to finance infrastructure developments. An advantage that the Bank will have is the ability to combine several sources of funds (e.g., Federal funds with private funds) to finance projects as effectively as possible. The Bank will showcase potential projects to engage the private sector in opportunities for investment in infrastructure.


New York State will establish the Community Reconstruction Zone (CRZ) program to facilitate community-driven planning to rebuild and revitalize severely damaged communities. The State anticipates allocating approximately $25 million from this first allocation to provide planning grants to communities that suffered community-wide impacts. Later allocations will be used to implement final CRZ plans. The planning grants will facilitate the retention of outside experts as consultants to a participating community’s planning committee, as well as the completion of critical studies to determine the key vulnerabilities and needs of the community. The State will provide information and guidance to the committees to assist them in identifying and using such outside resources effectively and efficiently. It is anticipated that the CRZ program will be funded up to $500 million or such amount to be jointly determined with HUD.


Energy-related mitigation is critical for essential services facilities including, in particular, hospitals, nursing homes, and other facilities for vulnerable populations. Many essential services facilities did not have backup power systems or had ineffective backup systems that failed during the storm. As a result of this, numerous facilities had to evacuate patients which posed a greater risk to those patients than allowing them to remain in place during the storm.

To address this critical need, New York State will establish the Resilience and Retrofit Fund. The State anticipates allocating approximately $30 million from this first allocation of CDBG-DR funding to provide credit enhancement or leverage for private-sector financing of energy-related mitigation projects.

[Update #1- A friend just sent me a note with an excerpt of the following provisions of the Plan. They are a perfect illustration of how well meaning people can be duped by unfunded aspirational rhetoric, weasel words and loopholes. The plan is full of them: (emphases mine)

Reconstruction Standard: When applicable, replacement and new construction
will meet the 2009 Residential International Code and the green building standards
by requiring compliance with ENERGY STAR™.
Rehabilitation Standard: When applicable, the programs will adhere to the
following housing rehabilitation standards:
 The State of New Jersey’s Uniform Construction Code
 The Single Family Housing Rehabilitation Standard provided by the program
 The HUD CPD Green Building Retrofit checklist
All reconstruction, new construction and rehabilitation must be designed to
incorporate principles of sustainability, including water and energy efficiency,
resilience, and mitigating the impact of future disasters.

Obviously, the “when applicable” is determinative, because the standards in question are voluntary, e.g. “not applicable”. This is meaningless and manipulative bullshit.

Equally, the “principles” of sustainability, including water and energy efficiency, resilience, and mitigating the impact of future disasters are so vague as to be impossible to operationalize and implement. Again, weasel words.

Had I drafted this Plan, here’s how it would have read:

“In implementing the energy efficiency and greenhouse gas emissions reduction goals of the NJ Global Warming Response Act, the State shall subject all federally funded projects to the following building standards: 

And backed those standards and program up with real money.

This plan fails to leverage the federal money to expand the scope of and secure “beyond regulatory compliance”.

[Update #2 – I am under no illusions on NY’s Plan, which is based on education and also is cost-effective voluntary initiatives:

As part of this effort, the Statewillcreate the Smart Rebuild NYS public awareness and educational campaign to provide homeowners, businesses, municipalities, organizations and building professionals with quality up-to-date information and instruction to facilitate the rebuilding of homes and properties and protect them from future extreme weather events and climate change. This multi-faceted outreach campaign will inform the public on how best to rebuild to protect homes and properties. The campaign will provide guidance onmandatory code requirements as well as cost-effective voluntary initiatives that go beyond the minimum code requirements to save homeowners money and better protect them from future natural disasters.

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  1. andrew ward
    March 15th, 2013 at 15:00 | #1

    I am partners with my family and some othrt siblngs own share in the business and we incured 38″ of water. The name of the business is Bindrite services located in that are of Carlstat that I guess no other munnicipality wanted. Anyway, we had to lay off 100 regular employees that have been with us since 1983 and hire top proffesionals to come in and rebuild the shop which is all machines. We are in the pronting and bookbinding business. My father fellt is was unfar to pay off the lease and share whta was in the bank and revievables and put all these poeple out of work.Anyway he thought it would cost 1.5 to 2 million the most and we are just starting to run machines and the expenses reached, if I am correvt 4.8 million and there was a point of no return whwn it comes to things like what we took on. So what I am asking for is not a lone becuasee we have a huge line of credit with the bank but to investigate if there is going to be monies put aside for reimursment for businesses like ours. I didi read in the Sandy aid plan that there will be reimursment for our situation. That is why I started ti investigte. I went from congressman to senator to fema to another agency and back to Senetor Sarlo’s office . They called me and told me to reach out to your site, so if thete is any thing that cand be done, that would be great. And think of all the money the state saves by not shelling out umeployment and revenue in payroll taxes if we could take all the wok back and bring all these peopel back to work. WOW, what a feeling ( I think that was in a disco song from the 80’s) Lol.Not sure if I gave you the best number to reach me at 201-655-2771 ANDREW Ward and the Business is Bindrite services in S. Hackensack. If I am to recieve a call can i please get a text first so I know its you

    Thanks, Andrew

  2. andrew ward
    March 15th, 2013 at 15:07 | #2

    One more thing, my father did this out of the kindness of his heart to keep all of our empoyees working again. he could have just junked the place and gone and lived on a tropical Island but he took the higher road. Now that it didn’t wprk like he thought it would I guess we are lookin for someone to take the higher road for us.

    Thanks again, andrew

  1. August 23rd, 2014 at 20:26 | #1
  2. May 9th, 2015 at 07:16 | #2
  3. May 10th, 2015 at 19:40 | #3
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